Wellington-based digital agency Resn has long had ambitions of world domination. Founded in 2004, the majority of its clients are from offshore. The 24-strong agency (16 in New Zealand, 8 in Amsterdam) has worked behind the scenes for several award winning campaigns.
We speak to business development director Matt Walsh about the challenges of servicing the world from Wellington, the importance of self-drive in today’s young digital creatives and where Resn’s future is.
I’ll start with an easy question. Prime minister John Key reportedly said Wellington is a dying city. You live and work here, is Wellington a dying city?
It seems like such a stupid comment to make … I don’t see it that way at all. People want to live here and be here for the culture and lifestyle. Saying the city is dying … maybe some of the old trends and ways are, but what we’re doing [in digital and technology]certainly isn’t.
Would it be easier to work from Auckland? For instance, what is the skill pool like in Wellington for digital creatives?
It’s very hard finding people. We can get juniors quite easily but finding senior staff with experience isn’t easy and we’re often importing from overseas.
That sounds a lot like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Companies here can’t find senior staff, but aren’t hiring and developing new grads to make them senior?
There’s a broad assumption that people aren’t getting enough work experience through agencies or companies. But the people we’re hiring don’t necessarily need agency experience, but need to have the self-drive to build their skills and portfolios themselves.
It’s not that the talent isn’t here, there are lot’s of amazing graduates coming out of the unis here … One of our past interns now works for Facebook. He had a kickass portfolio of work before coming to us which he built on his own time. That’s the kind of drive we want to see.
What skills or qualifications do you look for in new staff?
When we look at a CV a degree is great, but doesn’t weigh greatly on our decision. Sometimes getting a degree can put you further behind than if you’re teaching yourself. You’re on the cutting edge instead of waiting for the curriculum to catch up.
Resn is very developer heavy right now, but we’re not focused on any specific [programming]language. We have developers who know five or six languages.
At one time we were the best in the world at Flash. Now Flash isn’t as important, the same thing will happen with other frameworks so it’s good to know a mix.
Does Resn do much work for New Zealand clients? What’s the ratio between local and international work?
I think we had one New Zealand client last year … It’s almost entirely overseas work. We’d love to work with local clients, but the budgets are a bit smaller here for digital work.
Is working from New Zealand an advantage or disadvantage? What are the challenges in servicing overseas clients?
The timezone isn’t really an issue. We’re only about three hours behind LA, maybe five in winter. It’s more about getting them to take the leap with us, which can be difficult over Skype.
All our competitors are in New York, [Los Angeles] and London. They get to go out for drinks and dinner with clients all the time … there’s a lot of nuance which you can only pick up in person.
London is 12 hours behind. That must be a pain?
We used to handle London projects out of Paris with most of the development work still done from [Wellington]. It was a real struggle.
It’s pretty much why we set up an office in Amsterdam [in February 2012], to work on European clients.
Amsterdam is a hub of advertising. It’s also about staffing, the city puts out a tonne of highly skilled developers and we knew we needed access to great developers to make it work overseas.
You’re originally from the US and you’re returning there [to LA]. Why’s that?
It’s part personal and part work. I’m moving back because of family reasons, but I still wanted to work with Resn.
The whole month of May I was there doing sales trips and came to the conclusion that we could just do it from LA. Like I said, you get vibes off of people in person which you just can’t over the phone or over the internet.
Will LA become Resn’s third major office? Is it likely that the majority of work might be done out of there instead of New York in the future?
I don’t think it will become an Amsterdam and certainly not a Wellington. It’ll be kept small and tackle peripheral work, like email design and banners that support our larger pieces. The majority of our production will still happen from New Zealand.
Photography by Sim Ahmed